Skip to main content

Bay Shore Outfitters gears up for summer, long haul

Business has grown from one store in Sister Bay to two more – one in Sturgeon Bay and another in Algoma

share arrow printer bookmark flag

June 1, 2023

DOOR COUNTY – Considered the Cape Cod of the Midwest, Door County has long been known as an outdoor enthusiast’s playground, and Bay Shore Outfitters has been a mainstay for equipping weekend warriors, tourists and experienced athletes alike with the gear they need to make the most of it. 

What started in 1999 by partners Rick Wylie, Peter Parson and David Zasler as a retail and rental shop in Sister Bay has since grown into three locations under the direction of business partners Mark Schuster and Julie Wilson.

The stores, located in Sturgeon Bay, Sister Bay and Algoma, offer men’s and women’s apparel, camping and hiking gear, kayaks, stand-up paddleboards (SUPs), cross-country skis and snowshoes.

Bay Shore Outfitters also runs water site rentals, bicycle rentals and offers lessons.

Schuster, who was born and raised in Door County, said he worked as a retail merchant and buyer in a variety of places.

After learning Bay Shore Outfitters was looking for a buyer, he joined the team in 2004 and bought in shortly thereafter.

He said the lure of the Door County way of life always beckoned. 

“It’s hard to describe,” he said. “It’s got its natural beauty, of course, and it’s kind of a state of mind. It runs at its own pace.
There’s a feeling of family and familiarity that grows on you, and you long to get back. That’s where it came from for me. I knew I wanted to raise a family up here.”

Wilson, who also was born and raised in Door County, joined Bay Shore in 2013 working part-time and then managing the Sturgeon Bay location. 

“I had my own business when I was younger,” she said. “I needed a change of pace when I came to Bay Shore, and I fell in love with it.”

Bay Shore Outfitters has seen steady growth over the years and even more so during the pandemic. 

While many businesses during that time shuttered, Bay Shore flourished. 

“The pandemic changed people’s outlook on outdoor recreation,” Schuster said. “People wanted to kayak, they wanted to hike, so we saw exponential growth in that way.”

The biggest challenge for the pair during that time, Schuster said, was maintaining a healthy work-life balance, while dealing with the influx of demand.

During summers, they employ a staff of 22. 

// Shore Outfitters now has three locations – Sturgeon Bay, Sister Bay and Algoma – headed up by business partners Mark Schuster and Julie Wilson. Photo Courtesy of Bay Shore Outfitters

“Staffing is always ongoing, and Bay Shore has been blessed on that one; we have an incredible year-round staff of both full- and part-time people and our summer hires have, on average, given us two to three years of continuity,” Schuster said, adding they only needed to add two new summer employees as everyone who could, came back.

Schuster said they have heard about some of the staffing issues other businesses have faced, “again we are blessed.”

“We have never experienced a lack of people applying for positions within our company,” he said. “Bay Shore is a family, and every one of the people who works for us has a say, is individually important and truly makes us who we are.”

Slower months
Things slow down a bit after the summer season, but Schuster said the staff is always looking ahead – attending multiple trade shows throughout the year to purchase soft goods (clothing, footwear, etc.) and hard goods (kayaks and other equipment, etc.).

He said their buying cycle is about nine months in advance. 

For example, they will start ordering spring/summer 2024 goods in mid-June this year and travel to trade shows starting in November for fall 2024 goods. 

“It’s crazy how far in advance the buying season (is now),” he said. “When Bay Shore started, the buying season for summer didn’t begin until the middle to end of August, and winter shows started in January. We had real data to forecast from. Being in a tourist-based area, we don’t really have a good feel for any soft good trend until the second to third week of June when the season gets into full swing. That’s why our local and northeastern day shoppers are so important to us. They give us an early feel.”

Additional offerings
The duo said they would like to offer more “activities” to its roster. 

Wilson recently worked with a group of students in the Sturgeon Bay School District on water safety and exploration with kayaks and stand-up paddle boards at the Door County YMCA.

In August, they have their first all-inclusive camping weekend planned, which has already sold out.

Schuster said campers pay a fee to enjoy chef-prepared meals and the like, all without having to set up and tear down camp. 
“It should be fun,” he said.

Schuster said the all-inclusive weekend is something new they feel can be successful.

This summer, they are also working with Viking Cruises during their stops in Algoma by facilitating kayak trips and geologist-led Niagara Escarpment Ice Age hikes for the passengers.  

Schuster said they don’t plan to open another storefront anytime soon, but never say never. 

“We are in a good place right now, and still learning the Algoma market with our newest location there that has two years under its belt,” he said. “But, why say we are done? We are not actively looking, but in our world of retail, and who Julie and I are as individuals, we are always thinking of new ideas and ways to enhance what and who Bay Shore Outfitters is.”

// Door County natives, Julie Wilson and Mark Schuster said the area’s natural beauty is kind of a state of mind. Photo Courtesy of Bay Shore Outfitters

Schuster said the most rewarding part of what he does are the people and the relationships they have formed over the years, with the many families that come through their doors. 

“I have formed some amazing friendships just by saying hello to a stranger that visits us for the first time,” he said. “Being part of a community is what I value my wealth on.”

Schuster said anyone can open a business.

“But to become part of the fabric of the community you are in is what drives me,” he said. “That, and the many young faces we have employed during our years, and to watch them grow and take on the world. So many come back to say hi and introduce their partner and children to us. That’s how I know we are doing things the right way.”

For more information on what Bay Shore offers, visit

share arrow printer bookmark flag

Trending View All Trending